Sororities Investigating Segregation Allegations at University of Alabama

The organizations are accused of blocking two black women from pledging.

Sept. 13, 2013 — -- At least two University of Alabama sororities say they are investigating allegations from a student newspaper that they blocked two black women from pledging.

The article in The Crimson White said the "UA Greek system is still almost completely divided along racial lines" and that the two women "tried to break what remains an almost impenetrable color barrier."

The story claimed that none of the school's 16 Panhellenic organizations offered a bid to pledge two black women, with some alumni allegedly stepping in to block them.

One of the women, the newspaper said, seemed to be a perfect candidate, with a 4.3 high school GPA, a salutatorian and from a family "with deep roots in local and state public service and a direct link to the University of Alabama."

The recruits asked to remain anonymous, according to the newspaper.

"Pi Beta Phi leadership is taking this matter very seriously and has begun looking into the allegations cited in The Crimson White article," Pi Beta Phi grand president Paula Shepherd told in an email Thursday. "If any of those allegations are found to be true, those members, alumna or collegiate, will be held accountable for their actions."

A member of UA's Pi Beta Phi chapter allegedly told the school publication that Pi Beta Phi alumnae threatened to cut financial support after learning that the chapter planned to pledge one of the black students.

Shepherd called the allegations "troubling and saddening" and said the sorority does not discriminate in its membership selection practices and that it would not tolerate any discrimination.

A student member of the university's Alpha Gamma Delta chapter told The Crimson White that most of the active sorority members voiced support for the pledge, but it was alumnae who blocked her. The student said the alums cited the chapter's letter of recommendation requirements as the reason for blocking her, according to the paper.

"At Alpha Gamma Delta, we have strong, clear policy against discrimination," Alpha Gamma Delta executive director Stephanie Sack Bailey told in an email Thursday. "We instill that in all of our chapters for all they do, including recruitment. If there's a question as to whether that policy has been violated, we take it seriously, investigate and intervene appropriately."

Bailey said an investigation team is "actively looking into this situation to determine whether policy has been violated."

"UA has been working with our local chapters and their national organizations to remove any barriers that prevent young women (both the prospective new members and the chapter members) from making the choices they want to make," University of Alabama associate vice president for university relations Deborah Lane said in a statement.

Lane said that the university administration, members of the local chapters and the "vast majority" of the alumni "fully believe that this is the right time to do the right thing, and we are committed to ensuring that all students have access to and can choose from multiple opportunities that match their personal interests and goals."

She said the national and international organizations determine their own membership selection processes as well as select and supervise the chapters' alumnae advisors.